As Illinois’ civil unions law comes into effect Wednesday, Catholic Charities of Rockford will end its state-funded foster care and adoption services, a move they say is necessary to protect their freedom of religious conscience because otherwise the charity may have been forced to comply with state anti-discrimination laws and place children with same-sex couples.
From On Top Magazine:
The charity services 11 counties and its decision could displace the 350 foster children it serves and leave 58 employees out of work.
“While we understand leaving this work will be very painful for our client families, employees, volunteers, donors and prayerful supporters, we can no longer contract with the state of Illinois whose laws would force us to participate in activity offensive to the moral teachings of the church — teachings which compel us to do this work in the first place,” said Frank Vonch, director of social services for the Diocese of Rockford.
The civil unions law, signed by governor Pat Quinn earlier this year, gives no express protections for religious institutions with regards to adoption services. An attempt at passing a bill that would have amended the civil unions law in this fashion was killed in senate committee.
Following the signing of the civil unions law, the state administration began and is still looking into whether adoption services receiving public money can, under the state’s human rights act, be allowed to discriminate.
The Catholic Charities of Rockford has been keen to characterize this battle as an example of religious rights being trampled, but LGBT rights groups say the only victims are the kids that could have been helped through the welfare system and into happy homes by the group.
Diocese officials said that allowing such adoptions or foster placements would violate teachings of the Catholic faith.
“The law of our land has always guaranteed its people freedom of religion,” diocese spokeswoman Penny Wiegert said. “Denying this exemption to faith-based agencies leads one to believe that our lawmakers prefer laws that guarantee freedom from religion.”
The Civil Rights Agenda, a gay rights advocacy group, issued a statement calling the diocese’s decision “a sad display of bigotry” and said religious freedom “is granted only when the religious agency is not funded by taxpayer dollars.”
“I am mindful that this is a sad day for the many foster families and parents involved and the children who are in the care of Catholic Charities,” TCRA Executive Director Anthony Martinez said.
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has said there will be adequate resources to take on the 300 cases the Catholic Charities of Rockford had on its books upon closing.
However, this will no doubt serve to bolster calls for a referendum on a constitutional amendment that would ban civil unions as well as same-sex marriages in the state. This was proposed last month by a group of religious conservatives who say the civil unions bill was passed by lawmakers against the will of the people. Read more on that here.
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